50 Memoirs Written by Women Who Lived Abroad

I love to read memoirs written by women who move to foreign countries. According to my annual book lists, I discovered this genre in 2006 and have been reading them ever since. In 2007, I went into detail about why I enjoy reading travel memoirs.

It makes sense that I started reading these books in 2006. Back then I was in the midst of a quarterlife crisis, desperately trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life. While attempting to figure it out, I moved from Virginia to California, took the CBEST exam, the GRE, attended a grad school open house, almost signed up for paralegal training, and considered moving abroad.

What did I do instead? I drove back to the east coast in June 2006 and ended up in Washington, DC soon after. I didn’t go to grad school, substitute teach, or live abroad. I’ve had a series of desk jobs ever since.

I may not live in a foreign country but I can live vicariously through those who have. I sit behind a desk at work, but oh, how I love to imagine the possibilities.

Paris 9

(A street in Paris, September 2004)

Here are 50 books (all of which I’ve read), written by women who lived abroad, broken down by country:

1) Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes, Elizabeth Bard

2) Paris in Love: A Memoir, Eloisa James

3) My Life in France, Julia Child

4) Petite Anglaise: In Paris. In Love. In Trouble, Catherine Sanderson

5) We’ve Always Had Paris…and Provence: A Scrapbook of Our Life in France, Patricia & Walter Wells

6) Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris, Ann Mah

7) C’est La Vie: An American Woman Begins a New Life in Paris, Suzy Gershman

8) Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris, Sarah Turnbull

9) French Fried: The Culinary Capers of an American in Paris, Harriet Welty Rochefort

10) The Olive Farm: A Memoir of Life, Love and Olive Oil in the South of France, Carol Drinkwater

11) On Rue Tatin: Living and Cooking in a French Town, Susan Herrmann Loomis

12) Tout Sweet: Hanging Up My High Heels for a New Life in France, Karen Wheeler

13) French By Heart: An American Family’s Adventures in La Belle France, Rebecca Ramsey

14) France: A Love Story, Camille Cusumano (Editor)

15) A Thousand Days in Venice: An Unexpected Romance, Marlena de Blasi

16) A Thousand Days in Tuscany: A Bittersweet Adventure, Marlena de Blasi

17) The Lady in the Palazzo: At Home in Umbria, Marlena de Blasi

18) Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy, Frances Mayes

19) Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy, Frances Mayes

20) My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story with Recipes, Luisa Weiss

21) Lying Together: My Russian Affair, Jennifer Beth Cohen

22) The Road to Santiago (Spain), Kathryn Harrison

23) At Home in Japan: A Foreign Woman’s Journey of Discovery, Rebecca Otowa

24) Untangling My Chopsticks: A Culinary Sojourn in Kyoto, Victoria Abbott Riccardi

25) Too Late for the Festival: An American Salary-Woman in Japan, Rhiannon Paine

26) The Foremost Good Fortune, Susan Conley

27) Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons In Life, Love, And Language, Deborah Fallows

28) Serve the People: A Stir-Fried Journey Through China, Jen Lin-Liu

29) Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China, Fuchsia Dunlop

30) The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food, Jennifer 8. Lee

31) Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven, Susan Jane Gilman

32) The Early Arrival of Dreams: A Year in China, Rosemary Mahoney

33) Foreign Babes in Beijing: Behind the Scenes of a New China, Rachel DeWoskin

34) Burmese Lessons: A Love Story, Karen Connelly

35) Sideways on a Scooter: Life and Love in India, Miranda Kennedy

36) Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure, Sarah Macdonald

37) Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo, Vanessa Woods

38) Mango Elephants in the Sun: How Life in an African Village Let Me Be in My Skin, Susana Herrera

Middle East
39) The Woman Who Fell from the Sky: An American Journalist in Yemen, Jennifer Steil

South America / Cuba
40) Cuba Diaries: An American Housewife in Havana, Isadora Tattlin

41) Along the Inca Road: A Woman’s Journey into an Ancient Empire, Karin Muller

Multiple Countries
42) The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost: A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected Adventure, Rachel Friedman

43) Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana, Stephanie Elizondo Griest

44) Kite Strings of the Southern Cross: A Woman’s Travel Odyssey, Laurie Gough

45) The Devil’s Picnic: Around the World in Pursuit of Forbidden Fruit, Taras Grescoe

46) Have Mother, Will Travel, Claire and Mia Fontaine

47) Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman, Alice Steinbach

48) Educating Alice: Adventures of a Curious Woman, Alice Steinbach

49) Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World, Rita Golden Gelman

50) Expat: Women’s True Tales of Life Abroad, Christina Henry De Tessan (Editor)

Do you have any favorites to add to this list? What should I read next?

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  • Reply Anya February 26, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    I do the same thing. I had grand plans of leaving my home town when I was in college. Instead, I met my husband my junior year, got married shortly thereafter and ended up being an accountant. Books and documentaries are my lens into a different life, a life that I could have had.

    • Reply Zandria February 26, 2015 at 7:37 pm

      I dare say there’s a lot of us like this — dreaming of going somewhere exotic and exciting, but instead we read about others who have done so. Your last sentence is exactly right.

  • Reply Emily February 27, 2015 at 9:10 am

    Oh my goodness!! I LOVE this list! I’m adding so many titles from it to my TBR list. Alice Steinbach is one of my favorite female travel writers – I discovered and read Without Reservations while I was in the very early stages of dreaming up and planning my own solo trip around the world, and her writing really inspired me to actually do it.

    I struggled with what to recommend – you’ve read so much! A few that I enjoyed that aren’t on your list are:
    Paris: A Love Story by Kati Marton
    Baghdad Sketches by Freya Stark

    • Reply Zandria February 27, 2015 at 9:47 am

      Hello, Emily! Thank you for your kind words. I’m so glad you’ve found a bunch of new titles to add to your TBR list. I started following your blog when I read your About page and saw your background — people who have been brave enough to quit their jobs and travel the world are pretty cool in my book. I’m looking forward to going back and reading some of your old posts about your adventures.

      Thank you very much for the recommendations!

  • Reply Karin February 28, 2015 at 10:44 am

    Oh this is a really fabulous list – thanks for sharing. I shall work my way through it I think.

  • Reply Karin February 28, 2015 at 10:46 am

    I did move to the other side of the world, but I still love to get travel inspiration anywhere I can… one of my goals is to go live on the continent when I have an EU passport in my 40s for sure. I possibly have some delusional fantasies based on films and books, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.

    • Reply Zandria March 1, 2015 at 6:56 pm

      That’s awesome, Karin! You should definitely go for it if this is your dream. Also, I agree – these books can certainly serve as inspiration for those who have lived in foreign lands. There are a lot of foreign lands out there!

  • Reply Leah March 2, 2015 at 11:13 am

    The Sharper your Knife, the Less you Cry is an awesome book about living in France for culinary school.

    I’m definitely going to check out some of these. Living abroad someday is still on my bucket list.

    • Reply Zandria March 2, 2015 at 11:15 am

      Living abroad again is on my bucket list, too! So in the meantime I can read about all these countries and try to decide where I’m going.

  • Reply Anne Velardi April 10, 2018 at 2:04 am

    Here are some interesting old titles: Dependent Baggage by Marie Wann, who lived in post-war Germany with her husband as part of the Occupation, My Heart Lies South and Where the Heart Is, by Elizabeth Borton de Treviño, the story of her marriage to a Mexican man. I love these books, not just for the interesting stories, but for the glimpses into earlier times. Would love to find more like these.

    • Reply Zandria April 12, 2018 at 10:00 pm

      It’s so kind of you to give recommendations. I’m going to look these up. Thank you!

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